Food review - The Hayhurst Arms, Bostock Green
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 December 2015 | UPDATED: 13:02 19 January 2016
The sheer scale of The Hayhurst Arms means that this is no mere village local, but a game-changer in turning Bostock Green into a destination, writes Ray King
They say that not much has changed in the bijou Cheshire village of Bostock Green since the start of the last century. The old oak tree which marked the centre of the historic country was cut down in 1897 but another was planted that same year to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. And that’s just about it.
The village green is a quintessentially English scene complete with a charming steepled pavilion and welcoming country inn. Yet looks can deceive. For until very recently the pub wasn’t a pub at all but the village reading room or institute dating from 1845, later the social club, and an adjoining house.
There was a pub close by, which between 1796 and 1841 was clearly marked on old maps and variously named The Bull’s Head, The Wolf’s Head, The Trees, The France Arms, The Royal Oak, and The Five Oaks, but it was demolished and no-one seems to know when. So it’s not clear how long the locals had to endure life in a village with no hostelry until last year, when the burgeoning pub group Brunning and Price stepped in and transformed the social club into The Hayhurst Arms.
Even though B&P’s familiar signature themes - exposed bricks, beams, eclectic rescued furnishings, stocked bookshelves, a gallery of prints and paintings, open fires and rural bric-a-brac (where do they source all this stuff?) are much in evidence throughout, the Hayhurst Arms is a particularly impressive conversion. The pub’s sheer scale means that this is no mere village local but a game-changer in turning Bostock Green into a destination. The size, however, is mitigated by its clever division into a series of interconnecting rooms and cosy corners, each with its own character and one especially notable for its leather sofas hugger-mugger by the roaring fire. There’s also a delightful chandelier-hung private dining room with a fine mahogany round table that can accommodate a party of ten diners.
The menu is also typical of the Brunning and Price estate, with traditional favourites interspersed with more ambitious dishes that, on our visit, were carried off with aplomb. I started with an expertly crafted wild mushroom risotto (£6.50) served with a just-so breaded poached egg and Parmesan crisp, lifted by a drizzle of perfumed truffle oil. Mrs K’s smoked duck breast (£6.95) generously portioned and perfectly pink, came with tangy orange jelly and a crispy Asian salad with pistachio nuts.
The mains were tip-top too: a huge haddock fillet for me: flaking, moist and delicious inside its light, crunchy beer batter coating, served with lovely chunky fresh chips, minted mushy peas and tartare sauce (£12.75). Opposite, Mrs K took a fishy route too, though more exotic. Her bouillabaisse (£15.50) combined chunks of red snapper, excellent king prawns, mussels in the shell, tender squid and turned saffron potatoes in a tomato sauce whose subtle anise nuances were enhanced by a garnish of Florence fennel. Crusty brown bread and garlicky aioli completed a worthy taste of Provence.
Portion sizes dictated we shared dessert; just as well, for the irresistible bread and butter pudding with apricot sauce and clotted cream (£5.75) easily served us both. We drank a soft, peachy marsanne-viognier from France’s Languedoc (£19.25) with a grown-up soft drink, Devon’s Luscombe Elderflower Bubbly (£3.25), for the driver. Service was excellent throughout.
The Hayhurst Arms, Bostock Green, Cheshire CW10 9JP; Tel: 01606 541810. www.brunningandprice.co.uk/hayhurstarms